Copyright © Louis Schmier

Date: Sun 5/6/2007 4:23 AM
Random Thought: A Quickie On Those First Year Students, IV

And finally, why did I say the FYE teachers and advisers are probably the most caring of faculty or staff on campus? Because they are. Do you really think that by and large most academics other than the FYE teachers and advisers would be in those first year classes if they had a choice? Think they would much prefer to deal more with professional upper-class majors or graduates? Do you really think that institutional leaders who crowd those first year students into nameless and faceless lecture halls by the hundreds in the name of economy and efficiency really are fond of those students or give much credence to those classes? Do you think institutions would be concerned with retention and graduation numbers if it weren’t for obligations imposed by contemporary outside pressures? Do you think the students don’t know all that? Why do you think those students are stunned, literally stunned, when a professor truly cares about them and respects them? If you want a glimpse at the answers to these questions, take a look at PBS’ Declining by Degrees.

Now, why are those first year students crucial? My god, they’re human beings. They’re each a sacred, noble, valuable human being. They are each are someone’s son or daughter and we should treat them no less than we would want someone to treat our son or daughter That’s all anyone should have to say. But, alas, it’s not. I've said this once and I will say it over and over and over again. I will shout it from the rooftop and mountain peaks. What if we imagined that an angel preceded each student, walking before her or him proclaiming: 'Make way! Make way for someone created in the image of God!' What if we constantly thought of this, believed this, felt this, lived by this, clearly saw and heard such divine and ethereal messengers. Think it would make a difference how we would see each of those students, how we would listen to her or him, how we would feel about and think of and behave towards her or him? It does. Trust me. I know.

In a practical sense, those FYE programs are critical. Why? Because the first year students are at the intersection of fundamental issues for themselves as well as for the whole of society. If you nurture them and they make it through successfully, they're set up for life, and society is better for their achievement. If you weed them out and they don’t make it, they could end up in the burdensome underclass. This is why it's almost malfeasance to treat the first year students the way most are coldly, matter-of-factly, even callously treated outside the FYE programs.

Do you know what caring, respecting, loving do? The FYE people do. They know those attitudes encourage optimal intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth; they know where caring rules, there is no will to ignore. They know that the creative heart and mind plays with those whom they love. They know the condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. They know respect does not oppress, it liberates. They know caring, respecting, and love believe in the impossible and makes the impossible happen. They know caring, respect, and loving defy all reason. They know these attitudes don’t let their humanity get numbed by automatic conformity or uniformity. Instead, they force an individualization of those in that classroom, clarify vision, focus the senses, and strengthen convictions. They know that caring, respecting, and loving offer a deep immersion with students that nourish and enrich—and scares the hell out of those who don’t.

That is why a teacher-student relationship based on trust and respect and confidentiality--and love--is so crucial. I see it all the time. Respect, caring, and love connect, empower, illuminate and understand like nothing else can. When given the chance and support and encouragement, these supposedly “don’t belong,” “letting everyone in” students are incredibly thoughtful, creative, imaginative, and talented. If you just love them, they lose their attitude; they stop posturing they come out from behind their defensive masks of toughness or shyness; they melt; and, they make it.

Enough. Susan is stirring. Got to keep getting ready for China. We leave early tomorrow morning.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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